David Renaud goes by “Doc” in the writers room of Sony TV-ABC’s “The Good Doctor.” That’s because there are three Canadian Davids on staff — and because he was a practicing physician before becoming a writer. Renaud, married with two children, spoke with Variety about his journey from scrubs to scripts.
What was your transition from medicine into entertainment?
I had a car accident that left me paralyzed at 19. I woke up in the hospital room with a doctor telling me, “You’re never gonna walk again.” I didn’t want to accept that: I was determined to find a cure for paralysis. I got into the University of British Columbia. I finally realized that we’re so far from a cure for paralysis, so I thought maybe I could do something with rehab medicine. I applied to medical school, and by some miracle, I got in. But it wasn’t my dream; it was just something I did because I needed to — to find a cure for myself. After I finished residency, I realized what I always loved was being a storyteller; and then my friend encouraged me to go to acting class with him.
That developed into screenwriting?
He and I made a short film that we ended up sending to a festival, where I met my wife. I used that film and some writing samples to get into UCLA film school. I met a very good friend there named Jason George, who’s also a TV writer. At lunch, I said, “I’d love to be a TV writer,” but I was working as a doctor in the South Bay. He said: “You should write TV and nothing but TV and hone your skills. Send me a script and I’ll read it.” And he read it and said: “It’s good. I think you could do this. In fact, I’ll recommend you for the Disney ABC Writing Program,” where he had gone before me. I wrote two scripts, a pilot and a spec of “Masters of Sex,” and I got into the program. I made a couple of big leaps of faith. One was quitting being a doctor to come down here. And then after I found my way back into medicine, quitting it again to do the ABC Writing Program.
What did you think when reading the pilot script for “Good Doctor”?
I was really impressed with how [creator David] Shore handled the character of Shaun Murphy [played by Freddie Highmore]. The story is about autism, but in my mind, it’s about a disabled character. Autistic, blind, deaf, wheelchair-users, whatever — we’re all part of this big community of people who are struggling to have our stories told. And not just told, but told in an authentic way.
Before taking a meeting, you don’t usually mention your wheelchair, right?
For sure. There’s something about surprising someone that puts them a little off-guard. Then I launch into my shtick: “Oh yeah, by the way, I have this disability” and this is what I can add to your show; I can help with a perspective. Owning it and not apologizing for it, it’s the way I’ve gotten through life. If I don’t see the barriers and I push past them fast, the person who’s with me suddenly realizes they’re on the other side. They’re like: “I don’t know what just happened, but I hired a guy in a freaking wheelchair who went to med school.”
What’s left on your career bucket list?
I want my own show eventually. I’d like to tell my story. I do think there are some interesting things about my experience going through medical school and being a resident on the floor with a different kind of disability in what is a really big challenge.
Things You Didn’t Know About David Renaud
AGE: 44 BIRTHPLACE: Georgetown, Ontario, Canada LAST SHOWS BINGE-WATCHED: “Evil Genius,” “Killing Eve” COMFORT FOOD: Indian and Mexican DREAM TRAVEL DESTINATION: Japan FAVORITE RECENT MARVEL MOVIES: “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Black Panther” FAVORITE GROWN-UP MOVIE: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”